Cricket: Shape of swings to come

The untold stories in a year of buried treasure: CRAIG WRIGHT
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The Independent Online
Three days earlier England had again been humiliated in a Test at Lord's. The night before, the Scotland football team had been overwhelmed in their last match of the 1998 World Cup.

The combination of Scotland and cricket has never been one to command many headlines and 24 June, with anguished post-mortem examinations still being conducted on the above corpses, was not the most likely of days to alter the natural course of history. It was then that Craig Wright bowled his unforgettable spell.

In 15 previous matches in the NatWest Trophy the Scots had failed to register a solitary victory. There was no sound reason for suggesting the 16th would be different. True, Scotland had qualified for the World Cup a few months previously by reaching the final of the ICC Trophy but this was a much tougher proposition.

Worcestershire, their opponents, had already beaten them easily in the Benson and Hedges Cup, and were all but at full strength which meant both Graeme Hick and Tom Moody were playing. Say what you like about Hick, and many who ought to know better have spoken some desperately unkind words, but he could be expected to destroy one-day attacks of greater substance than Scotland's while batting with one hand and paring his nails with the other. Moody is still potent enough to be selected for Australia's one-day side, for which competition for places is not exactly weak.

Moody, Worcestershire's captain, won the toss and inserted Scotland. The ball moved off the pitch throughout and, with Bruce Patterson and Mike Allingham making half-centuries, it was a notable effort to reach 244 for 6 from 60 overs. Notable but hardly formidable.

Worcestershire began circumspectly. They lost their first wicket at 32 in the 12th over. At which point the 24-year-old Wright entered the proceedings and the record books. In 12 overs in which he consistently moved the ball away from the right hander he took 5 for 23.

"The ball was coming out just as I wanted it to," he said. "It was one of those spells that all bowlers pray for when you can do no wrong and you know it's going to land where you want it."

In fairly short order Wright had Abdul Hafeez caught by Ian Stanger in the outfield. He followed this up with the precious wicket of Moody, caught behind pushing at one which left him. David Leatherdale and Vikram Solanki were also caught behind off outside edges. Hick surveyed this damage while making his way to 29.

"Both Hick and Moody hit me for fours soon after I came on but it didn't affect me. I knew what I wanted to bowl," said Wright. "They hadn't reached 100 when Hick tried to force me off the back foot. It left him just a touch and Alex Davies took a very good catch behind with the ball rising. That was the best wicket of all."

Worcestershire were then 98 for 6. With Wright off they staged an astonishing recovery through Gavin Haynes and Stuart Lampitt but were four runs short at the end. Wright won the man of the match award.

"It couldn't get much better than that," he said. "At the time the bowling spell didn't really mean too much because the important thing was just to win the match and we could see it slipping away at one point."

There was, he revealed, a secret to the success and, surprise, surprise, its genesis was in Australia. Wright, who was born in Paisley and is studying for a sports science degree, played grade cricket for two seasons for Penrith in New South Wales.

"Before I just concentrated on bowling straight and hitting the seam because that's all you have to do over here. There you have to learn to do something with the ball yourself and I developed an away swinger. Without that what happened against Worcestershire wouldn't have done."

Maybe others should try it. Wright's next big games are likely to be in the World Cup. On British pitches in late May he could be a handful. The headlines would be all his.

STEPHEN BRENKLEY

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